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Singer and actor Leif Garrett rose to fame in the 1970s as one of the era's most popular teen idols.
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He also starred in Skateboard: The Movie (1978).
Off screen, Garrett was on a path for self-destruction. He has said that he started using drugs when he was 14. By the age of 17, Garrett’s partying ways caught up with him. He was high when he crashed his car, leaving his passenger and best friend Roland Winkler, in a wheelchair for life. A legal battle ensued between Garrett and Winkler, which was later settled. Garrett’s guilt over the incident, however, haunted him for years.
Despite his personal problems, Garrett released two more albums, Same Goes for You (1979) and My Movie of You (1981). He also made several film appearances, most notably Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders (1983). By the end of the decade, however, Garrett had all but disappeared. He later told the Los Angeles Times that “I made a point of stepping away from it for a while, from all of the hoopla because the glare was too bright. It was too much.”
In the late 1990s, Garrett resurfaced on the series 8-Track Flashback on the cable music channel VH-1, replacing another teen heartthrob David Cassidy as host. VH-1 went on to feature Garrett in a 1999 episode of its Behind the Music series. The show included a reunion between Garrett and his former friend Winkler who told Garrett that he had forgiven him for the accident. Seemingly sober, Garrett talked about how he conquered his heroin addiction on the program. His addiction got the better of him shortly after the episode aired when he was arrested in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park for trying to buy drugs from uncover officers.
Around this time, Garrett also released his latest music effort as part of a group called Godspeed. They only recorded a handful of tracks before splitting up in 1999. After that, Garrett joined up with grunge pioneers The Melvins briefly. He even did the vocals for their cover of the Nirvana hit, “Smells like Teen Spirit,” on their album The Crybaby. Later, Garrett formed the hard rock band F8 and took an active role behind the scenes, writing most of the group’s songs.
Displaying a sense of humor, Garrett appeared as himself in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), with David Spade in the lead role. The film also had appearances by Danny Bonaduce from The Partridge Family and Barry Williams from The Brady Bunch. He explained his participation in the project to the Los Angeles Times: “You should be able to poke a certain amount of fun at yourself.” Later in that same interview, Garrett expressed no regret about being a child star. “I would actually do it again. It is such a rare thing to be able to do it. Obviously, you wish you had the information you had now.”
After another drug arrest in 2004, Garrett continued to pursue his music. He released a single called “Betty Ford For Xmas” with the Crush-Ups that same year. Giving reality television a try, Garrett appeared on the E network’s Star Dates, MTV’s The 70’s House, and NBC’s Celebrity Fear Factor.
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